The last time I wrote about Stukie’s disappearance, several Zambian media sources shamelessly plagiarized my work. Today I invite those same sources to copy and paste as much of this article as they wish. Everything I have to say is about you.
17 hours ago, the Twitter handle for the DC Police department reported that Suwilanji Situmbeko had been located, to the relief of many. Zambians on social media congratulated themselves for making enough noise to get their “cousin” located. It was a rare moment of national unity – as a number of users pointed out – and now they are demanding answers. So where WAS Stukie?
The reasons that folks have put forth to buttress their (assumed) right to know all the details surrounding his disappearance nclude:
- Emotional investment
- Spending money on data bundles to push the #WhereIsStukie hashtag, and
- But if your boyfriend sleeps around on you and goes missing and you report it, doesn’t he owe you an explanation?
I am sure that Suwilanji is grateful for the online support he has received. I haven’t spoken to him myself, but I sent him an email to express my gratitude and relief that he’s be found alive, and I assume well.
Again, I assume he’s well. I don’t know.
When a 27-year-old man is reported missing – and has been MIA for 14 days – one can never speculate with any accuracy what the circumstances surrounding that disappearance were. And so because there is no room for speculation, an entire cabal of social media users is demanding that their curiosity be satisfied. Somehow, they have convinced themselves that they have a claim on information about what happened to Stukie.
I wonder, have any of these people asked themselves if they are prepared to deal with the truth of what happened? How will that knowledge benefit them personally, or more importantly, how does it benefit Stukie, the “cousin” and “brother” who we as professed family rallied to bring global attention to finding? What if he comes forward and explains himself…and the answer doesn’t satisfy you? What will you do then? Given the speed with which supportive Voltrons turn to virulent Trolls on Twitter, I have a fair indication of how Stukie could be treated by his “Ati! I used data-bundle – to – promote-hashtag– so-you-owe-me family”.
What if what happened to him was worse than you could imagine?
What if he was kidnapped and physically and sexually assaulted at gunpoint over the course of 14 days? Are you going to be there to walk him through the trauma?
What if his abductors only released him on condition of his silence?
What if he comes forward with information and in doing so puts his family at risk?
Or – and this will set your teeth on edge – what if Stukie had a psychotic break, imagined all the incidents he posted online and made the entire episode up in his mind? Perhaps you may recall the story about the Nigerian med school student who failed to turn up at her own graduation party and went missing for 21 days? She was so overwhelmed by her family’s expectations of her that she felt the need to escape and attempt a new life. Remember how she was scorned online (and probably in real life as well) for wasting everyone’s time and playing with OUR emotions? Do you think that that reaction was helpful to her in ANY way? Do you think a similar reaction in Stukie’s case would be healthy for him either?
I understand that people are curious. I even understand the notion that we all have a right to know. What I don’t comprehend is this idea that we must know RIGHT now. There was a time that as a culture, we understood that. We understood the importance of giving people time to process and heal. We are dealing with a real human being’s life right now. This is not a reality show or a LifeTime made for TV film. When (or if) the man is ready, he will come forward and talk about it. I can bet my last cent that there are members of the Zambian media trying to scoop his cousin and/or employer to feed this empty lust for information. Just leave this man be and let him have some peace! Because if you are ALSO not ready to come with resources to support him besides plagiarizing the work of bloggers for clicks on your website, you need to sit this one out too.
In the meantime, since Zambians have seen how effective their efforts have been at locating the lost, perhaps they can use those powers to finding lost government revenues and other missing persons who could do with similar exposure. But for now, Stukie has been found and that should be enough for all of us.